Home sales in San Antonio slowed to a crawl for about two months last spring, dropping 20 percent in May 2020 compared with the previous year. “It was like somebody had shut the doors,” said Danny Thomas, a Realtor with Missy Stagers Realty Partners. “Boy, when it turned back, it came with a vengeance.”
Seven months later, in fact, monthly home sales increased 27 percent over the same period last year, according to data from the San Antonio Board of Realtors (SABOR). In November, there were 6,197 active listings in San Antonio and 3,092 new listings during the month.
A difficult year for the economy in almost every way, 2020 brought gains in both home sales and home prices. In San Antonio, nearly 35,000 homes have sold this year so far, a 10 percent increase over the previous year.
“Few expected such a rapid recovery in the housing market, especially after the last recession caused by the mortgage market collapse,” wrote Joshua Roberson, senior data analyst with the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University, in a Dec. 7 analysis. “Unlike last time, the housing market may end up the economic hero of 2020.”
The year started with high hopes based on an upward trajectory in the market. “The last several years have been really good, of course, with interest rates down, everybody having a job, and generally everything being positive in the economy,” Thomas said. “So we were looking, in January, at 2020 as being a very strong year.”
After home sales dropped markedly in March and April, with buyers and sellers in lockdown and economic uncertainty widespread, business picked up again in May, he said. Virtual showings and other health precautions allowed buyers looking for more elbow room to shop safely and provided sellers some assurance as well.
The buying spree that began in May and peaked in July then kept going without the typical slowdown real estate professionals expect with the start of school in fall, Thomas said. The entire home sales industry was busier than ever.
“We actually saw extensions in the contract-to-close time because of the number of refinances [and] the appraisers being pulled that direction … because interest rates are so attractive,” he said.
Though December brought a somewhat slower pace to the market, Thomas is currently working with several clients representative of the current real estate climate in San Antonio.
One of those clients is a cybersecurity professional relocating from Utah. The buyer is seeking a lower-cost fixer-upper he can improve and sell when he moves again in a few years. In 2018, Texas ranked second in the nation for relocation activity, according to the 2020 edition of the Texas Relocation Report released in January by Texas Realtors.
“A lot of [Realtors] that I’m talking to have folks from California that are fleeing the state and the high tax situation out there and coming to our area for value propositions,” Thomas said.
Another client is a couple who decided they weren’t quite ready for the retirement community they chose some time ago and are now looking for a home closer to the activity in the city center. The third is a new college graduate who found his first job in San Antonio and is now looking to buy a house.
Thomas also is house hunting for himself in an area north of Canyon Lake where oversize lots and acreage are available.
“Pre-COVID, you might see 40 parcels on the market [in that area],” he said. “Right now you might see 10. And ones that are buildable – in other words, don’t have the dramatic elevation changes – are selling like crazy … multiple offers are common.”
The average home price also has jumped by 19 percent from November 2019 to the same month this year – while the average number of days on the market has decreased by 18 percent, according to data from SABOR. Seattle-based real estate brokerage Redfin reported that the median price of a home in San Antonio was $227,000 in November 2019 and $258,000 in November 2020.
The reason for rising prices has more to do with a combination of stimulated demand and dwindling supply, according to the Real Estate Center, the largest publicly funded U.S real estate research organization, than any economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
“COVID has not impacted real estate negatively,” said Missy Stagers, broker/owner of Missy Stagers Realty Partners, which closed on 62 more homes this year than last. “We had to learn how to punt and practice differently. But it has not impacted us. If anything, it has probably made Texas better because people are moving here.”
Stagers said she is expecting more of the same in 2021, “barring any more economic disasters.”
“We’ve already probably been through the worst of the disaster this year,” she said.
Even if the number of mortgage foreclosures grows next year due to unemployment and forbearances put in place during the pandemic, the market won’t be negatively impacted, Stagers said.
“We’re at less than two months’ worth of inventory right now and so that foreclosure market isn’t really going to hurt us at all,” she said. “We’re still going to be in a seller’s market.”